Middle Park 4H programs aim beyond shooting skills
Special to the Sky-Hi News
For those who think of archery as a solitary activity, it may be surprising the extent to which it is bringing friends, family and community together in Kremmling.
But it would not be surprising to the many being introduced to the sport through the Middle Park 4H Program.
“4H is not a drop-your-kids-off kind of program,” says Bo Jump, a volunteer 4H leader and co-leader of the shooting sports program.
As an example, Bo first became involved with 4H last year after his daughter Madison expressed a desire to take up a recent interest of her father’s, archery. A long-time firearms hunter, Bo had started bow-hunting just a few years earlier and, as he says is true of most people, once he picked up the bow and started shooting, it was hard to put it down.
He began practicing, not just at the range, but in his driveway, with daughter Madison and wife Shannon watching and soon catching his infectious enthusiasm. Upon learning that 4H had a shooting program, including archery, and it was not just for kids learning about livestock, the Jumps enrolled Madison last spring.
However, with little previous knowledge of the program and an understandable parental concern about the overall safety of children and weapons, Bo enrolled himself as well for leader training and was soon coaching eight students in the skills of the bow, including stringing, shooting, safety and care of the equipment.
After just one summer of coaching and Madison’s first year participating, Bo took Madison and one other Kremmling student, Cameron Wood, to compete individually at the State 4H Shootout last August. Both students were proud of their scores as beginning archers.
And, Madison says, “It was amazing to see how many people are involved. It was a BIG event!”
Learning for life
That experience of competing with and against others from around the state is just one aspect of the program, Bo says. Students not only meet weekly throughout the first couple months of summer for ongoing practice and guidance, but they each are required to make a demonstration board to be entered at the fair in August and must give individual presentations to a panel of judges.
He says the combination of experiences teaches kids not just about archery or shooting, but about life skills, public speaking, record-keeping, confidence, and respect for self and others. And it seems to foster a passion that spreads to friends and family.
The group of eight that Bo coached last year has grown to 21 this summer. Three more adults have become leader trained and brought the ratio of student-to-coach to a more manageable number.
“We’re able to give more individual attention and instruction,” says Bo, “and we’re seeing lots of improvement this year as a result.”
Other parents have become involved as well. Shannon says she looks forward to Monday night’s shoot every week. She has become something of a “club mom,” and helps every week with organization, set-up and take-down, safety-monitoring, bug-spraying, weather-watching and anything else that comes her way.
The wider community has embraced the club as well. While they practice at the Blue Valley Sportsman’s Club just south of Kremmling off Highway 9, there is no permanent archery range on the property. This means the club must set up their own target boxes weekly.
This year, local resident Tom Schafer volunteered to build eight new target boxes for the group. All materials for the boxes were donated by Kremmling’s two hardware stores, Northwest Ranch Supply and Tri-River ACE. Tri-River and Murdoch’s in Silverthorne have invited the club to conduct various customer appreciation/fundraiser events at their stores.
And now the club is fundraising for its own. The Jumps have experienced a series of trials this spring. Their clothes dryer caught fire in April, leaving their home gutted and in need of complete remodel. Shannon has been diagnosed with tumors that may necessitate both surgery and time away from work in the next couple of months.
A community & family
But true to form, 4H is more than just an after-school program.
“We are a community and a family,” says another volunteer, Trudy Hoesli, who helps organize community service programs each year as leader of the Middle Park 4H Winners Circle.
“We will do everything from help mow someone’s lawn if they can’t afford it to fundraising for a need in our community,” she explains. “It made sense to see if the kids were interested in helping the Jumps in return for everything they do.”
The students were excited about the idea and brainstormed possible events until hitting on the idea of partnering with Archery Underground, Kremmling’s indoor archery range, for an archery benefit. Held June 24 and 25, youth and adults came out to support the family, participating in numerous heats and a championship round.
As for the Jumps, they expressed gratitude and surprise at the generous kindness of the event.
“We were in the meeting when they brought up the idea of helping one of our member-families. We were looking around, wondering who needed our help, when they brought up our names,” Bo recalls, eyes watering.
They also appreciate it being an archery event and held at the new Archery Underground. Bo and Madison took part in an indoor league there this past winter. They hope the event will lead to greater ongoing partnership between the two entities.
“The summer is great for getting outdoors and shooting,” says Bo. “But the indoor range is great for ongoing practice and keeping up the momentum.”
He hopes to see a youth league created there and sees it as a great way to extend the 4H program’s season, especially for beginners who could get more practice in earlier in the spring.
The Jumps are excited about the continued growth of the program and particularly with the participation of female youth.
“The majority of the archery kids are young women and girls,” Bo says. “After a decline in archery participation and hunting over the last few decades, movies like Disney’s Brave and the Hunger Games, have sparked a lot of renewed interest.”
The whole family encourages the involvement of kids, parents and community and say it is easy to get involved. Middle Park 4H provides all training for interested leaders and equipment for all students involved in the shooting programs.
“We’re really lucky in Grand County,” he says. “We hope you’ll get interested enough to invest in your own equipment so you can practice outside of meeting times. But it’s not necessary. We have everything you need to get started in archery, shotgun, or .22 riflery.”
For more information about the county-wide Middle Park 4H archery program, other shooting sports, or other programs, contact the Extension Hall at 970-724-3436.
Donations are still being accepted on behalf of the Jump family. They can be placed in a lock-box at the CSU Extension Hall or by contacting Michelle Burdin at Credit Union of the Rockies in Granby.
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Middle Park’s boys flipped the script on Saturday and used one strong quarter to put an opponent away.